Oprah appeared on “TODAY with Hoda & Jenna” on Friday and said that King was “not doing well.” Holding back tears, Oprah continued, “She’s not doing well because she has now threats and has to now travel with security, and she’s feeling very much attacked.”
The backlash against King stemmed from her question towards Leslie during a “CBS This Morning” interview where she brought up the rape accusation against Kobe Bryant and how it might affect his legacy in death. “It’s been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge which was dismissed in 2003, 2004,” King started. “Is it complicated for you as a woman as a WNBA player?” Leslie responded, “It’s not complicated for me at all.” She continued, “I just have never seen him being the kind of person that would do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. That’s just not the person that I know.”
King then followed up, “But Lisa you wouldn’t see it though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it,” to which Leslie replied, “And that’s possible. I just don’t believe that. And I’m not saying things didn’t happen. I just don’t believe that things didn’t happen with force.”
Although King and Leslie discussed many things in the interview — including Kobe’s mentorships, his support of women athletes and his aspirations to be like Michael Jordan early on in his career — “CBS This Morning” released the rape accusations clip and it went viral. Many people slammed King as trying to “tarnish” Kobe’s legacy and having an “agenda” against Black men.
Some major celebs even went as far as to attack King on social media. Snoop Dogg made a series of posts, some in which he called King and Oprah, “bi*ches” and “ho*s,” and he threatened King saying, “Respect the family and back off b*tch before we come get you.” Rappers like Boosie Badazz and 50 Cent followed suit, with 50 Cent even posting a side-by-side picture of King and Nancy Pelosi with the text, “We the Black delegation Trade Chewbacca AKA Gayle King for Nancy Pelosi.”
Oprah said she understood “how people would obviously be very upset if you thought that Gayle was just trying to press to get an answer from Lisa Leslie.” However, she called out the personal and misogynist attacks against her friend, saying:
“I think anybody can criticize anything, but the misogynist vitriol and the attacking to the point where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone—because it’s not just the people who are attacking, it’s the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it.”
King did not appear for her co-host spot on “CBS This Morning” on Friday after the intense attacks, according to Newsweek. On Thursday, she addressed her interview with Leslie following the outrage. She explained that the clip was from an interview that had already aired on CBS and she conveyed her disappointment in the network for sharing one clip that could be taken out of context.
“I’ve been up reading the comments about the interview I did with Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant, and I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me too,” she said in an Instagram video. “I am mortified. I am embarrassed and I am very angry.” She continued, “Unbeknownst to me, my network put up a clip from a very wide-ranging interview — totally taken out of context — and when you see it that way, it’s very jarring. It’s jarring to me. I didn’t even know anything about it.”
CBS also released a statement on Thursday defending King, writing:
“Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant. An excerpt was posted that did not reflect the nature and tone of the full interview. We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made.”
Bryant died in a helicopter crash in late January along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people. A public memorial for Kobe is set to be held at the Staples Center on February 24.